Aug 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Officers win $1.4M in discrimination suit over guarding Derek Chauvin

A journalist watches their mobile phone showing Derek Chauvin as the verdict in his trial over the death of George Floyd is announced in Minneapolis on April 20, 2021. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners agreed to a $1.455 million settlement with corrections officers who sued after they were prevented from guarding former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin due to their race.

Driving the news: The board agreed to resolve the discrimination claims and formally apologized to the eight current and former correctional officers of the Ramsey County Adult Detention Facility.

Details: The officers filed claims in February 2021 when they were segregated from other officers as Chauvin was processed and held at the jail for killing George Floyd, according to a press release from their lawyers.

  • The officers — who identify as Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander American and multiracial — asserted claims of discrimination and hostile work environment based on their race and the color of their skin, as well as retaliation.
  • Prior to Chauvin’s arrival at the detention center on May 29, 2020, the facilities superintendent, Steve Lydon, "issued a segregation order, prohibiting all correctional officers of color from interacting with or guarding Chauvin," or going anywhere on the fifth floor, where Chauvin was to be held, the complaint alleged.
  • Later that day, when an emergency call occurred within the jail and multiple officers of color responded, they were prohibited from completing the emergency protocol until white officers arrived, according to the suit.

What they're saying: Board chair Trista MatasCastillo expressed profound apologies to the eight officers, according to MPR News.

  • She said the decisions made by the leadership of the sheriff’s department were “more than just wrong — they were racist, heinous, highly disrespectful and completely out of line with Ramsey County’s vision and values.” 
  • The board called on Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher to take steps to address the incident, but MatasCastillo said that “we’re still waiting,” MPR News reported.

A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson released a statement obtained by MPR News that said the agency “was not a named party in the lawsuit filed against Ramsey County and consequently had no decision-making authority in the settlement with the eight plaintiffs."

The big picture: A federal judge sentenced Chauvin to an additional 21 years in prison last month for charges that included violating the civil rights of George Floyd including the use of excessive force when he kneeled on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes in May 2020.

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